Thursday, March 30, 2006

Westward Ho!

I'm not sure what's been in the air the past few days but the blogosphere has certainly been affected by it. There seem to be no end of just plain old mean spirits out there just aching to get in a good workout at other folk's expense. I'm distressed so see my blogging buddies being treated like the working end of a football.

So I'm taking a little break.

The Mark of Kane and his Trusty Sidekick are heading west for an extended weekend. We're decamping to San Francisco, where we'll run around and carry on and meet and greet. We'll see old friends and make new ones.

I'll tell you all about it when I get back next week.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Black Sweat

For the 27th year in a row, I did not attend the Black Party.

Oh, I've attended parties of this sort years ago, at various locales around town, starting with Flamingo, in the mid-70's. I don't not go out of any kind of moral judgment. I guess I don't necessarily like to see my leathermen dancing. I much prefer them leaning against the wall, with one leg hitched up behind them, I suppose. My use of recreational drugs has pretty much petered out to nil over the past few years. My drug of choice these days is a Martini. Very dry, with an olive, please.

And I'm really, truly dumb when it comes to the sex aspect.

Back in 1979, Robert and I attended the first Sleaze Ball, a precursor of the current event, which was held at the old Diplomat Hotel, then located on West 43rd Street. The party itself was fun, the music great and the men smoking! The old hotel ballroom was large and quite ornate, with a huge balcony circling around the dance floor on three sides. At some point in the evening we climbed the stairs looking for a quiet place to take a break. As we passed a joint, I peered over the balcony to watch the action. It was fairly dark up there, which I liked. I leaned against the massive Baroque column and studied the dimly illuminated vaulted ceiling. I was in the process of making some comment regarding the architecture when Robert suggested we move. I thought we had assumed a perfect vantage point and ignored him, rambling on. Again, he broke in suggesting we relocate, this time grabbing my wrist and gesturing with his head. In my admiration of the decor, I hadn't realized I was standing among a grouping of four gentlemen, otherwise engaged. They're fucking and I'm pontificating about early 20th Century architecture.

Some years later, I'm taking my dear friend Arthur, here on a visit from San Francisco, to the Saint, our newest and definitely our most over-the-top club. Located in an old Loew's movie house, the balcony had been extended, and a huge dance floor was created beneath a dome, complete with planetarium-type projectors. Arthur was very excited about the back room. I'd been going to the Saint for a better part of a year, and assured him that the Saint most certainly did not have any such area. After dancing with me for a while he went off by himself to explore. I never saw him again that evening. The following morning he called to gloatingly let me know that the Saint did indeed have a back room, that it was, in fact, the entire balcony, and that the action had been sublime. I must have been the only man in New York unaware of it's existence.

Clueless.

We spent our Saturday night having a quiet drink at Ty's. We've discovered if we situate ourselves directly under that massive TV monitor, we don't get sucked into watching it. Unfortunately, this does allow me to see that every other set of eyes in the room are glued to the screen. We caught up with some old friends and talked a bit about our forthcoming trip to San Francisco.

At around midnight, we walked up the block to Bleecker Street and hailed a cab to head home. As we reached our cab, three young men darted out from a building. One raced around the cab we were about to get into, climbed in the opposite door, reached over and opened the door in my face to let his two companions in. I stood there, completely flabbergasted. Trying to cough up a suitably furious reaction, I was instead stung by a voice, fairly dripping with disdain, dismissing me with:

"Have fun at the Black Party."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Beard of Stars

So the New York Times, in it's inestimably clueless fashion published this article yesterday.

No doubt certain segments of our population are beside themselves, happy to be on the very cutting edge of oh, whatever.

I understand that journalists, and I use this word loosely here, need a certain amount of copy daily to fill all those pages. Imagine. An article about hipsters and women's fashion designers growing beards. Who knew?

Clearly the writer doesn't know the first thing about beards. If you're using your razor four times a year, as the author implies in his first paragraph, you're in deep trouble. That's not a beard, that tangled underbrush. A beard necessitates a great deal of shaping and grooming.

Frankly, if anybody asked me "Is that beard from Dolce & Gabbana?" I would slug them.

Let's crank this down several notches.

I grew the very beard that resides on my face to this day in September of 1975. I can carbon-date this event because I had just moved into my very own first apartment at the tender age of 20.

Why?

A gentleman, let's call him George, phoned to ask me out. I told him I'd just been bumming around the house and hadn't shaved over the course of the weekend.

"Grow a beard, and come on over", he suggested.

And so I did. On both counts.

It took a while to actually decide on a shape I was happy with. After much experimenting, it eventually morphed into what it is today. And God knows, I don't shave four times a year. It's a daily, sometimes twice daily event. If I didn't, I'd certainly be giving the Wolfman a run for his money.

Let's face it. If you have nice eyes, a beard will highlight and enhance them. It also helps to soften any of the harsher features one might have. Mark's beauty tip, 31 years fresh.

Years ago, Robert confiscated this picture from a gentleman who had snapped it on a wintry morning back in 1976 down on the Morton Street pier. The man in question had taken to carrying it around in his wallet, and made the mistake of showing it to Robert, who promptly took possession of it, and me.

For decades, Robert kept this photo in a scrap book, which is where I found it the other night. On the facing page he had pasted a photograph of a baby eagle.

Paul Bunyan, Modern-Day Sex Symbol? I think not.

Just a kid, rolling out of yet another friendly bed and heading down to the river to hang with his friends.

I applaud my fashion-forwardness.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Get Out Of Town

The changes that have been wrought in the West Village have been varied and profound.

The gentrification, if one can call it that, of the Meatpacking District has bled down Bleecker and Hudson Streets; smart new shops proliferate like mold spores on old bread. Just a few years before, Village denizens were up in arms about transgendered prostitutes, gay inner city PATH riders and the sex malls that opened when our former mayor pushed those businesses out of midtown and into residential areas across the city. Now, these same Villagers have to cope with crowds of tourists lining up to sample awful cupcakes and window shopping at designer boutiques that have taken the place of their local launderettes and newsstands.

The Village has long been rendered obsolete by the transference of au courant gay life first to Chelsea and then on up to Hell's Kitchen. The bars that remain appear to be on borrowed time. The word on the street is that the Monster will soon be a Starbucks. The rumor mill has it that Ty's lease is up at the end of the year. Who knows if they'll be able to continue their storied 34 year history on Christopher Street.

I would miss Ty's if it were to close. It's figured in all my various incarnations. I was regular in my (late) teens, and when I arrived back on the scene in my late 30's it was still there for me. I became friends with Tim there, years before we got together.

Lately, though, we haven't been feeling it. A lot of the small Village restaurants we've frequented, in some cases for decades, have shut down in the past couple of years. The proprietors were able to get good money for their spaces and ran. I guess you can't blame then when you look across a half empty room on a Saturday night.

For years we've been able to grab some dinner and have a couple of drinks and carry on a bit at Ty's or a neighboring bar, and still be home in time for Tim to get a decent night's sleep before he has to hit the Dugout on Sunday. Sadly, our options have dwindled.

The two television monitors in tiny Ty's combine to suck any possible energy out of that room. All attention is focused overhead at the latest episode of Drawn Together or some nonsense that narcotizes the clientele into a dull stupor. No fun.

We've taken to traveling on Saturday nights. Other restaurants, other bar rooms.

This past Saturday we headed up to 50th Street to have dinner with our good pal Eric. When we arrived at the old French restaurant we like to frequent, we found Eric seated, transported by the Edith Piaf music that alternates with the cafe melodies played on accordion. He's like that. So are we, in fact. We indulged in some great Manhattans and caught up. The food and service were excellent, and the meal was highly enjoyable. Most of us resisted speaking in a Pepe le Peu accent.

We headed around the corner for a quick drink at Posh. Eric had never been and was amused by the young-ish crowd and the distinct sensation that he was in Illinois. We moved on to Therapy, which I had intended to show Eric strictly for it's architectural merits. I'm also aware that the friendly bartenders upstairs fix a pretty decent drink. Once we acquired some prime real estate at the edge of the gallery overlooking the staircase, we decided to hang out for a bit and watch the crowds.

It wasn't long before a young man introduced himself to Tim and Eric on the pretext of discussing their leather jackets and boots. The Black Party is coming up, you know! Were we going? In fact, Tim and I are not. Not sure about Eric. Our new found friend stayed and chatted, even buying a round. When the inevitable question arose, he turned out to be 22 years old. I was rather dumbstruck to meet such a prepossessed and enterprising person, if only because he was 30 years younger than me. I didn't even make any of my usual crack about owning t-shirts older. Because I don't.

As the evening progressed, we invited our new friend down to Siberia. He joined us for the trek down Ninth Avenue and met many of our old friends there. Tim and I took our young ward down to the basement to see the dancers and enjoy the relative lack of ambient light. More drinks were consumed until Tim and I extricated ourselves, and were poured in a conveniently waiting taxi to head home.

Where to next Saturday?

Monday, March 13, 2006

What I Am

Sometime on Monday morning, a reader from San Diego became my 10,000th visitor.

For all of you who average 1000 hits a day, please allow me clarify: that was 10,000 hits in 10 months. Almost to the day.

As I've always maintained, this blog resides in a small, brackish backwater of the blogosphere, and I'm very happy that so many intrepid explorers have paddled their way upstream to my small outpost.

I can't say I know exactly why, however.

I'm definitely not the hippest person on the planet. Not even in my neighborhood. Not even in my building. Not even on my floor.

I've never spent a Friday night at Snaxx.

I don't go to the Eagle on Sunday evenings.

I don't much go to the Eagle on Fridays or Saturdays either, though I've been known to stick my head in, now and again.

I don't own an iPod.

I have mixed feelings about acquiring one. Mostly I'm ambivalent.

I have a vast collection of music on vinyl and CD. And a functioning turntable.

I can't remember the last movie I saw in a theatre before my expedition to see Brokeback Mountain a couple of weeks ago.

I just saw Brokeback Mountain a couple of weeks ago.

While I am a purveyor of mid-20th Century classic furniture, my apartment is furnished, such as it is, in Mission.

I did not enjoy dining at Spice Market or Lever House. I do, however, enjoy the Four Seasons and Keen's. And Chez Napoleon. And the VIP diner.

I work out on a fairly regular basis but you'd be really hard pressed to call me a gym bunny.

I've been with Tim for almost 11 years, and we don't live together.

I'm older than dirt.

So, for whatever reasons you're here, I thank you. I'm glad everybody has survived the crocodiles, poisonous snakes and unfriendly natives on the perilous journey here.

Y'all come back soon, ya hear?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Spring Fever

At first I thought it was just a touch of blogging boredom, but I now recognize it for what it is...Spring Fever.

I don't want to be at my desk. I don't want to work. I don't want to be in this building. I don't want to talk on the phone.

I want to be outside.

I foresee this condition getting much worse as the week progresses. 60 degree temperatures are predicted for the weekend. By that point, I'll be looking forward to an unbridled romp on, I mean, with my boyfriend.

See what I mean?

Cold as it was last weekend, I could sense spring in the air. On our way out to dinner last Saturday evening, I stopped on 11th Street to admire a group of Snowdrops blooming in a tree well. As I loomed over them under the street lamp I could hear Tim ahead of me muttering "Mad Russian", and shaking his head.

The next day, as a I walked across town, I took a floral inventory of the Callery and Bradford pears starting to bud, the Iris Reticulata in full bloom, the Snowdrops, the Pansies. Yep, nature and I were pretty much in synch.

Of course, I forgot all about the flora when I got to the Dugout, which was surprisingly full for an Academy Awards night. Years ago in San Francisco, Tim and I headed out to all the local haunts normally packed on Sunday afternoons, and watched as the crowds dispersed and frittered off to watch the awards show. Soon, it was just us and the bartenders wherever we went. I know now to check the calendar when making travel plans.

Sunday, I had a conversation with a friend whose relationship of some years seemed to be drawing to a close. I know how difficult it can be, especially in your 40's, to pick yourself up out of the wreckage of a failed long-time relationship, and get on with your life. My friend was doubly upset, as he also felt that he his life as a gay man was over. I asked his age, and then pointed out that I was 10 years older.

Ageism is so profound in our uh, community. It's always startling to find it cropping in our media, in our bars and clubs, in our gyms, on our blogs, in fact just about anywhere one turns. I suppose as the current generation ages, this will change. As we know, there's not much of an existing generation of 50-65 year old men who are out and about. Role models are few and far between. But time stands still for no one, and the new crop of soon-to-be-middle-aged men will have the opportunity to examine and possibly rectify the situation. One can hope, anyway.

It saddens me that someone can feel their life is over at 42. It just gives me more impetus to head out there and let people know you don't have to lay down and die. I'll be the fucking torch-bearer for the cause, if I have to. Dammit.

Anyway, it was a pretty nice evening, all in all. I got compared to George Clooney (remind me to get a haircut, please) and met a handsome red-headed Aussie, whom I ran into again at Big Lug on Tuesday night.

Spring Fever indeed.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Separated at Birth?

Okay, so I'm at the Dugout, and there's lots of beer involved and we're sort of watching the Academy Awards and this guy is telling me how much I look like George Clooney as he keeps trying to shove his hands down my jeans.

And I'm like....Dude, I so do NOT look like George Clooney. He's, like, Cary Grant handsome. I'm just a middle aged Jew.

And just then George wins his award and they show a clip from Syriana. And the guy says: See?? You look just like him!!

And I'm like, shit, dude, was that really a compliment?


Apparently, George has been quoted as saying all he did was gain 35 pounds, grow a beard and shave his hairline.

I didn't have to work quite as hard as he did.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Medley of Extemporanea

Some weeks ago, I posted yet another redaction of a yet another bar crawl that Tim and I had indulged in.

In that post, I gave a shout-out to a bartender who was especially nice to us. This young man has a name most typical of the Mediterranean country he hails from, and I mentioned it, in conjunction with the word "Hi!".

Imagine my surprise last night when I received a posted comment from a gentleman residing in one of those Anglo-Saxon countries in Western Europe, who just happens to share his given name with the bartender in question. This man took extreme umbrage in having his given name appear in a gay blog. Gay people were disgusting to him. He has had many successful encounters with women, and there were many people who could attest to that fact. He then laid out his legal plans to bring suit against me and anybody else who might cast aspersions on his good (first) name.

I was puzzled as to how this guy was able to single out The Mark of Kane, which resides in a small, brackish backwater on the blogosphere. With a quick bit of investigation, I discovered that said gentleman had typed his given name plus the word "gay" into a blog search engine. Voila!

Well, I've removed the shout-out and will reserve the high spirits for the next time we visit that friendly bar-keep. I've also deleted a pertinent detail or two throughout my blog which qualify as TMI (too much information). Call me paranoid, I don't care. I don't need anyone calling down the wrath of their god or that of their solicitors. I have a feeling you can't really sue for much of anything on the internet. Anybody know what the rules are?

In other news today:

Yesterday, I became the very last queer on the planet, even quite possibly the galaxy, nay, the universe, to see Brokeback Mountain. I know. Sheesh. What took so long, right? Actually, I'm not the last queer. Tim is. I went with my co-worker.

The movie's alright. It's not the second coming or anything. And boys, there are much older movies with adult gay themes, and no, I'm not talking about The Boys in the Band (Hint: Sunday Bloody Sunday). It was well done, had some genuinely touching moments, and captured the short story to a degree, albeit in a majorly bloated fashion. I watched Sense & Sensibility on Monday night, and I think Mr. Ang Lee has a penchant for sheep. To my surprise, I did not dissolve into a pool of tears; in fact I didn't cry much at all. I re-read the Annie Proulx story tonight and found those missing tears all over again. Hers is a story of crossed connections, broken hearts and dead dreams. The film seemed to mostly about two dudes who couldn't stop fucking while their worlds crumbled around them. I felt very bad for every one of the characters involved. The men, their wives, their children, even their employers. What tragic, wasted lives. And for no good reason, either. And sorry, but I don't buy into the revisionist idea of how hard it was to be openly gay in the 1960's and 70's. Shit, I came out at the end of 1972 and never looked back. It was NOT difficult. And trust me, there were lots of boys in San Francisco in 1968 who had drifted down from the mountains of Wyoming and the wilds of Montana, come to check out the hippies in the Haight and then take that nice walk over the hill to what is now the Castro. This damn story ends in 1983. The love that dare not speak it's name was quite hoarse from shouting by that point in time.

As far as the boys go, I found Jake to bear more than a passing resemblance to a circus clown who's spent quality time at Gold's Gym on Market Street. However, I did find myself susceptible to Heath's charms for the first time in his career. They did make a handsome couple, however. I'd like the opportunity to check in with them again some years from now.

Men only get better with age.